Mississippi Writers and Musicians
MISSISSIPPI WRITERS: Cid Ricketts Sumner


Cid Ricketts Sumner

Major Works

  • Tammy Tell Me True
  • Ann Singleton
  • But the Morning Will Come
  • Christmas Gift
  • The Hornbeam Tree
  • Quality
  • Saddle Your Dreams
  • Sudden Glory
  • Tammy in Rome
  • Tammy Out of Time
  • Traveler in the Wilderness
  • A View from the Hill
  • Withdraw Thy Foot 

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Cid Ricketts Sumner: A Biography
By Shinta Tikson (SHS)

Cid Ricketts Sumner was born on September 27, 1890 in Brookhaven, Mississippi.  She wrote under the name Cid Ricketts, but her real name was  Bertha Ricketts (Delta Democrat Times 1).  Her parents were  Bertha Burnley and Robert Scott Ricketts, a professor at Millsaps College.  Sumner was educated by her mother and grandmother because her parents thought school was a waste of time (American Novelist of Today 418).  She received a B.S. degree from Millsaps in 1909, and the following year she received an M.A. from Columbia University (Lives of Mississippi Authors 426).  From 1911 through 1912 she continued postgraduate study at Columbia, and in 1914, she enrolled as a medical student at Cornell (426).  She remained in that course of study only one year. Sumner also attended summer lectures in Oxford, England (Clarion-Ledger 1A).

Sumner's writing career began with the publication of a poem at the age of eighteen  (Jackson Daily News 1A), but after she married one of her professors, James B. Sumner, on July 20, 1915. She devoted herself to being a wife and a mother.  Her husband  had a distinguished career as professor and chemist, and in 1946, he received a Nobel Prize in his field (LMA 426).  Together they had four children : Roberta, who  married  John H. Cutler, an author; Prudence, who married  E.W. Ganard; J.C.R. Sumner and F.B. Sumner but the Sumners  were divorced in 1930 (426).

In addition to being a writer, Sumner was involved in several other occupations.  She taught English at Jackson High School and French at Millsaps  During World War II, she was employed in a munitions plant and wrote her second novel to keep from worrying about her sons and sons-in-law who were overseas (American Novelist of Today 418).  It was not after all of her children were in school that she began writing seriously.  "Mrs. Sumner was a prolific writer, producing and publishing more than ten novels, numerous short stories, and several works of non-fiction (Lives of Mississippi Authors 427).  "Mrs. Sumner was widely traveled, and some of her non-fiction works were the results of her wanderings (Clarion-Ledger 1A).  She is best remembered for her three novels which were turned into successful motion pictures: Tammy Out of Time, Tammy Tell Me True, and Quality, which was the basis for the movie Pinky (Lives of Mississippi Authors 427).  The Delta Democrat Times stated, "Pinky is considered one of Hollywood's first interracial films" (1).

Although Cid Ricketts Sumner lived most of her life outside Mississippi, she made frequent visits to friends and family there.  "In 1967 she returned to Millsaps as featured speaker on the Alumni Day program and was awarded an Alumni Citation by the college" (Lives of Mississippi Authors 427).  Her permanent residence in the last years of her life was Duxbury, Massachusetts, and it was here that she died on October 15, 1970 .  Police said, "The killing was reported by the grandson, John R. Cutler, who has been charged with murder in connection with the slaying...A hammer found at the scene is believed to be the murder weapon" (Jackson Daily News 1A).  "Her life and her work were for many an inspiration, and her violent death represented a shockingly ironic contrast to the gentleness of her personality and her printed words" (Lives of Mississippi Authors 428). 

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A Review of Tammy Tell Me True
by Shinta Tikson (SHS)

Tammy Tell Me True, a novel by Cid Ricketts Sumner, takes place in the pre-Civil War South, and it is about Tammy, a seventeen-year-old girl who lives at Brenton Hall with her fiancé Peter after her grandparents could not take care of her anymore. Before her grandfather was taken to jail and her grandmother died, Tammy  lived with them in a shanty boat, the Ellen B., on the Mississippi River.  "These poor people, who on the surface may appear simple and ignorant, embody those traits which William Faulkner called ‘the old varieties and truths of the heart'" (Lives of Mississippi Authors 427).  As the time nears for Tammy and Peter to be married, Peter postpones their marriage for a year and goes off to agricultural college.  Tammy's heart was broken, and she  decides to improve herself by enrolling to a small college as an auditor; even though, she has never been to school before in her life. SHS student Shinta Tikson

The novel seemed tedious at first, but once Mrs. Sumner talks about Tammy's dream and how determine she is to achieve it, the story becomes more interesting.  One reviewer states, "Tammy novels are admittedly juvenile, dealing in simplistic and exaggerated portrayals of social classes in the South" (Lives of Mississippi Authors 427).  I agree with this statement because Tammy represents the South from the way the talks, her pride of who she really is, and her life style.  Another reviewer continues, "She represents the fundamental goodness of life and the spirit of the pre-Civil War South" (American Novelist of Today 418).

Throughout this novel, Sumner talks about how hard it is for a poor girl to get along in the real world. Tammy, according to Lives of Mississippi Authors is an "unsophisticated, unschooled, cast in the mold almost of a female Huckleberry Finn, comes to town and is pitted against her opposites: the wealthy, the well educated, the citified snobs who in the end, predictably, are given a lesson in humanity by the innate goodness of this almost primitive girl" ( Lives of Mississippi Authors 427).  I also agree with this comment because Tammy accomplishes her goal by getting the education she desires.  In addition, she not only changes her life,  she changes the life of whom she comes into contact, for example, the wealthy, teachers, and townspeople. Tammy's goodness, directness, and love for human beings effects them all.  "Cid Ricketts Sumner has many gifts: she knows people, she knows the speech and folkways of the rural South and she is a wonderful storyteller.  In Tammy Tell Me True she brings us cheer and restores our sense of anticipation for what lies around the next turning.  It is Tammy's peculiar gift-and Mrs. Sumner's, too" (Tammy Tell Me True cover). 

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Related Websites

This web site describes the movie Pinky by Sumner.
http://www.eonline.com/Facts/Movies/0,60,33383,00.html

This site lists the place in Mississippi where Sumner was born and other Mississippi Writers.
http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/english/ms-writers/dir/place.html

This site also provides information about the movie Pinky.
http://www.videoflicks.com/VF/53/053102.html 

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Bibliography

Chambers, Elsie May.  "Mississippi Author Fatally Bludgeoned."  Clarion-Ledger.  16  Oct. 1970: 1A & 12A.

"Hold Grandson in Slaying of State Novelist: Is Held Without Bail; Memorial Service  Planned." Jackson Daily News.  16 Oct. 1970: 1A & 14A.

Lloyd, James B., ed.  Lives of Mississippi Authors.  Jackson: University Press of   Mississippi, 1981.

"Mississippi-born ‘Tammy' Author Slain."  Delta Democrat Times.  16 Oct. 1970: 1.

Sumner, Cid Ricketts.  Tammy Tell Me True.  Indianapolis: Bobs-Merrill, 1964.

Warfel, Harry Redcay.  American Novelist of Today.  New York: American Book Co.,  1951.

Weil, Martin.  "Cid Ricketts, Author Slain."  The Washington Post.  16 Oct. 1970. 

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